A new study out of SFU suggests tobacco companies should take on the responsibility of proper cigarette butt disposal, much like industries that produce hazardous materials.
Companies that produce things like paint, fluorescent lightbulbs, and pharmaceuticals are all legally responsible for safely disposing of those materials. Study co-author and Professor of Health Sciences at SFU Kelley Lee believes tobacco companies should be added to that list.
“We have to remember that this is ultimately an industry-created problem,” says Lee.
“The tobacco industry has designed and marketed a product that is not only deadly when used as directed, but generates substantial and dangerous environmental pollution.”
Up to five trillion cigarette butts are disposed of on an annual basis, making them the most common waste product globally. The study says that two-thirds of those butts end up littered, buried in landfills, or in storm drains.
Lee also notes that cigarette butts are a major fire hazard during the hotter months. During last year’s dry summer, the Vancouver Fire Department extinguished 35 grassfires caused by cigarette butts in just one week.
“Municipalities spend millions of dollars each year trying to clean up discarded butts and it is still not enough. A new regulatory approach is long overdue,” she says.
Indeed, last year the B.C. government was considering harsher punishments for people who toss cigarette butts out of their car windows, including impounding their vehicles.
The study was done in conjunction with Clifton Curtis, policy director for Washington, D.C.-based Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.